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Wife-Killer Randy Roth's Heartless Crimes of Greed

Fool the justice system once, shame on you. Fool them twice...

randy roth
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  • Photo Credit: current-affairs.org

When someone is murdered, it's most common that the crime was perpetrated by the spouse. In the case of Randy Roth, does this theory prove to be true twice? Let's take a look back on the man's conniving, cold-hearted crimes.

Roth was married four different times by the time he was 35, and his romantic track record is full of red flags. His own friends characterize him as an extreme misogynist. He's said to have a distaste for any woman who isn't submissive to him, and even in high school he was known to be controlling toward girlfriends.

In 1973, Roth enlisted in the Marine Corps for a brief period. When he returned home to Washington to support his mother, he soon became engaged to a young woman named Terri Kirkbride. The pair never made it down the aisle, as Kirkbride broke things off after finding another woman's purse in Roth's home. A couple of months later, the home of Kirkbride's parents was robbed. Kirkbride told the police that Roth committed this crime—as well as a robbery of a service station two years prior—but Roth only spent two weeks in jail.

Following his release, Roth married another woman he'd been seeing at the time, Donna Sanchez. After their son, Gregg, was born in 1978, Roth filed for divorce without explanation. He obtained custody of Gregg in the split.

Roth met his second wife, Janis Miranda, in 1981. As two divorced single parents, they had a lot in common. They were married in March, and Roth insisted on a hefty life insurance policy soon after their nuptials. Within a few months, friends of Miranda reported her behavior had grown strange and nervous.

On the day after Thanksgiving of that very year, Roth took Miranda for a hike at Beacon Rock. There she fell off the cliff to her death. Roth was the only witness to the incident, and his account of the details varied depending on who he was telling. When rescue workers found Miranda's body hours after her fall, it was determined to be impossible for her to have fallen from where Roth described.

Two months after Miranda's death, an officer interviewed Roth in his home but obtained no valuable information. That same day, Roth had Miranda cremated. The next morning, he filed a claim on her life insurance policy. Despite there being suspicion of foul play in Miranda's death, there wasn't enough evidence to move forward with an arrest and trial.

beacon rock
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  • Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

In 1985, Roth got married to another divorcée and single mother, 21-year-old Donna Clift. Despite hardly knowing anything about Roth, Clift was talked into the marriage. However, she was frequently upset about the mean-spirited jokes he played on her toddler. When Roth asked to adopt the young girl, Clift refused. During a family rafting trip on the Skykomish river, Roth attempted to steer their inflatable raft through sharp rocks and intense rapids. Shaken, Clift immediately filed for divorce.

Roth quickly moved on to a relationship with Mary Jo Phillips. He proposed to the divorced mother of three but rescinded his offer when he learned that he couldn't take out a life insurance policy on her, as she'd been previously treated for cancer.

In 1990, Roth met Cynthia Loucks Baumgartner at a Little League game. Baumgartner's previous husband had died of Hodgkin's disease, and now the widow and single mother had plenty of financial support from survivor's benefits and family. Coming from a deeply religious background, Baumgartner had no interest in marrying a divorced man. Roth chose to withhold information about his past relationships, except that Miranda had fallen to her death.

In August of that year, the couple got hitched in Las Vegas. After they moved into a big new home, Baumgartner slowly became aware of Roth's controlling nature. It was clear that Baumgartner regretted her marriage. It was even more clear that Roth was both physically and mentally abusive to all of the children in the home.

In July of 1991, the unhappy family took a day trip to Lake Sammamish—the same lake Ted Bundy had kidnapped two women from nearly two decades prior. On that scorching hot day, Roth and Baumgartner left the children to play in a swimming area while they took their inflatable raft out into deep waters. When Roth returned hours later, Baumgartner was unresponsive in the raft. Treated at the scene and at the hospital, Baumgartner was pronounced dead.

By Roth's account, the wake from a speedboat flipped the couple's raft as Baumgartner swam next to it. Consequently, he'd said, she'd drowned. Investigators were immediately suspicious when his story began to change. However, no evidence pointed to Baumgartner being forcibly drowned.

Like he had with his previous wife's death, Roth immediately filed a life insurance claim. He once more arranged for an immediate cremation once Baumgartner's body was released. Roth thought he'd gotten away with another scheme, but three months later on October 8th, the police arrested him on suspicion of murder.

Prosecutors and detectives on the case had their work cut out for them. Once again, Roth was the only witness to his wife's death, and there was no physical evidence of foul play. They began with methodical interviews of the families of Roth's former wives, former friends, and former neighbors. Evidence of a financial motive for these potential crimes rose to the surface. On multiple occasions, Roth had defrauded insurance companies, and he'd frequently stolen from employers.

Fatal Charm

Fatal Charm

By Carlton Smith

A friend of Baumgartner's, Lori Baker, discovered her will—and other possessions—missing from a safety deposit box. Roth was the last person to access the box, just two days after Baumgartner's death. Luckily, a second copy of the will was found in the county recording office. It revealed Baker as the legal guardian of Baumgartner's sons, a fact which threw a wrench into Roth's plans to adopt them and collect survivor's benefits.

Roth's co-workers disclosed unsettling conversations to the police. Allegedly, Roth had a tendency to spew incredibly cruel things to them about Baumgartner. In some instances, he referred to their marriage as only being a "contract."  A contract, he assured them, that he intended to get rid of after their first anniversary.

cynthia roth
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  • Photo Credit: King County Police

At this point, investigators on Baumgartner's case met with detectives that investigated Janis Miranda's suspicious death 10 years earlier. They found a pattern of inconsistent, nonsensical stories, a lack of grief, and a quick timeline of cremation. This recurring behavior and witnesses to Roth's other criminal activity—such as his abuse and thievery—convinced a judge to allow for Roth's arrest, and the subsequent search of his home.

The search of Roth's home turned up some incriminating items. There were several pieces of equipment that belonged to the automotive dealership where Roth was employed. There was a collection of military uniforms, plaques, and books that helped him to exaggerate his wartime experience. There was a wetsuit in a closet, despite Roth's own claims that he was a weak swimmer. While there were no firearms present on the property, authorities uncovered Japanese throwing stars, nunchucks, knives, and baseball bats riddled with nails. Baumgartner's possessions were stuffed into garbage bags, including a poem she wrote which began with, "Randy does not 'love' Cindy, Randy hates Cindy." What followed was a list of 44 criticisms Roth had slung her way.

Investigators went on to stage reenactments of Baumgartner's death on Lake Sammamish. Their attempts to generate the conditions described by Roth were unsuccessful—it was impossible for the speedboat to have a wake large enough to flip the raft that allegedly drowned Baumgartner. They also discovered that the items Roth claimed to have recovered from the raft after it flipped would have sunk too quickly to the bottom of the lake for him to retrieve before returning to shore.

When the case finally went to trial, Roth's defense team tried to have it thrown out. Upon failure of that tactic, they attempted to suppress evidence and testimony about burglaries Roth had faked in the past. They struck out once again.

Putting on a meek persona, Roth stood avoiding eye contact with the jury as his defense argued he was being persecuted for bad luck. The prosecution, however, painted him as a greedy villain who lacked any and all emotion.

There were over 100 witnesses that took the stand to testify. A scuba instructor testified that Roth had trained with him, and the man was a strong swimmer. This contradicted Roth's claims that he'd been too weak to help Baumgartner in the water. Eyewitnesses from Lake Sammamish recalled that Roth had very calmly paddled back to the beach after Baumgartner's death. Miranda's daughter, Jalina, told the court that a few days before her mother's death, she'd shown her a secret envelope full of money, hidden just for her in case anything happened to her. Donna Clift spoke about their unsettling raft trip. Mary Jo Phillips brought up their suspiciously broken engagement. Baumgartner's son spoke of the cruel abuse.

When Roth took the stand, he spent the course of a week delivering over 20 hours of testimony. As inconsistencies popped up, the prosecutors called him on his mistakes. Roth's defense was that he'd been misunderstood, or that he no longer remembered the event in question. With an aloof, detached countenance, Roth had to admit to some of his lies—the extent of his military service, his martial arts experience, and his family history. But he insisted anyone claiming he had lied about the drowning was mistaken.

After eight and a half hours of jury deliberation, a verdict was returned. Roth was found guilty of one count of murder in the first degree, one count of theft in the first degree, and one count of theft in the second degree.

Unfortunately, the county in charge of Janis Miranda's death was too financially strapped to pursue a conviction for her death. Nonetheless, Roth was sentenced to 50 years for Baumgartner's and another year for the charges of theft. Today, Roth resides at the Stafford Creek Corrections Center. He'll be eligible for parole in 2029.

Want to get an even closer look at this sinister case? A new movie based on Roth's crimes recently arrived on Lifetime. Check out the trailer for A Rose for Her Grave below! You can stream the entire movie now on Lifetime's website.